Shirtless Bear-Fighter! #2 features nationwide bear attacks and introduces a new character, the Hillbilly Warlock. Is it good?
Writer: Sebastian Girner, Jody LeHeup
Artist: Mike Spicer, Nil Vendrell
Publisher: Image Comics
If I had to sum up this issue in a single word, it might be “lopsided.” Most of the best parts are in the first half, which mostly focuses on the titular Shirtless Bear-Fighter thwarting bear attacks all across the United States. This section features some of the issue’s funniest gags, including an air force pilot who sputters nonsense over the radio instead of actual military jargon. There’s a humorous explanation behind why pandas only live in China, and we get a lot of what the book’s title implies: a shirtless person fighting bears.
The issue’s second half is where things falter a bit for me. A large part of this series’ appeal is watching stereotypical characters handled in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, especially in man versus bear action sequences. The second half of this issue includes almost no action to speak of. This might not be so bothersome if the character moments included were creative or charmingly silly, but they’re not. The Hillbilly Warlock character doesn’t feel particularly inspired; he just comes off as a stereotype that the creators aren’t doing anything fun with. His scenes serve primarily to move the plot along, but they are too void of the series’ trademark charm to make said plot very interesting.
The inconsistency of charm throughout the writing is my biggest gripe with this issue. There are some gags that land well, but too many fall flat or otherwise fail to live up to the standard set by the previous issue. It is worth noting, however, that the art team (consisting of penciller Nil Vendrell Pallach and colorist Michael Spicer) has stayed quite consistently impressive. Their work here continues to embrace the silliness inherent to the series’ concept, and their renderings of Michael Bay-esque explosions and Shirtless’ bear-hide-coated airplane are delightful. The coloration throughout the issue is very well done, and the sunset scenes are particularly beautiful.
Overall, Shirtless Bear-Fighter! #2 has more positives than it does negatives, but the negatives are too major to make it a definite must-read. The art team does solid work, and the writers deliver good material as well, primarily where gags and the character of Burke (the hard-ass ex-military man and my favorite member of the main cast) are concerned. Unfortunately, the issue’s second half is severely lacking in effectively executed humor, which is a major downer for such an intrinsically comedy-based series. I’m looking forward to the third issue in the hopes that things will pick back up, and that this was just a bit of a slump issue.